I have just returned from a dining trip to New Orleans, and the food was great. I did not eat at any of the places in the other posts to this column. I started with dinner at Restaurant August. It was busy, the service was flawless, the food was exquisite. The Corn soup with poached oysters and a float of truffle oil tasted of fresh cut from the ears vibrancy. For my entree, I had a roasted red snapper over beet and onion salad with jumbo lump crab. My dining partner had the tomato and fresh mozzarella salad, they used local heirloom tomatos instead of the bland ones from a produce company. It was expensive, but I was aware of this before I went there. I thought that for the value, my dollars were well spent. To have a dining experience where everything tastes so wonderful far exceeds having a platter piled high with mediocre food. For breakfast the next morning, I went to Riccobono's. It is in uptown on Panola street in the Loyola and Tulane University neighborhood. The customers are all locals. I had eggs scrambled with mushrooms and crawfish tails, and they serve a choice of either white or yellow grits. If the tables are full, there are a couple of seats at a counter and if you forget to bring a paper, chances are you can pick up one someone else left behind. That is what I did. I would go here before waiting in line at the Camilla Grill or the Bluebird Cafe. I joined some friends for lunch at Cafe Beriut out on Magazine Street. The Hummus with spicy meat was very good. The service was slow. The Lebanese Iced Tea was the highlight. Apparently they make iced tea, add a hint of rosewater and float toasted pine nuts on top. It is suprisingly refreshing, especially as hot as it was, and the pine nuts are almost a flash back to my childhood when we would float peanuts in a bottle of RC cola. Dinner was a shrimp po'boy at Mandin's up Canal Street in Mid-City. You just can not do any better when it comes to po'boys than this place. It has been around forever, I think some of the waiters have been there that long, but they are efficient, and the food is great old New Orleans. After dinner, we did "White Linen Night" in the warehouse district. It was hot, crowded and so much fun, I even saw some artwork that I liked. The New Orleans School of Glassworks had a very interesting mix, some of the local pastry chefs had created showpieces to display. Breakfast the next morning was at Rene Bistro in the Renassiance Hotel. Now I have to go back to the city to eat there for lunch and for dinner. The service was very good, Angel was very sweet when my waffle got delayed. And they serve the applewood smoked bacon, you just can't beat that bacon, it comes from a place in Wisconsin called Nueske's. Dinner was at Liuzza's on Bienville. New Orleans Italian all the way. This is not the same Italian one might find in say New Jersey. Beer is served in frosted mugs, the stuffed merliton and the veal parm, that is good food, comforts the soul. For breakfast the next morning, while we were making our morning walk through the French Quarter, we stopped at Croissant d'Or. Hint, go there instead of Cafe Du Monde. It is on Ursalines off of Decatur. And you will not leave without a sweet pastry to take with you for later. Those moring walks in the Quarter, what a great way to learn about a neighborhood. I do not go anywhere near Bourbon Street at nite. It is all drunk college kids throwing beads to other drunk college kids. It is not appealing. And when you see people flashing, it is other tourists, not locals your looking at. But back to walking in the quarter in the morning, the street cleaners do an admirable job of making the place new. And here I was, with Tropical Storm Bertha sitting in the Gulf, walking about watching life go on, deliveries being made, the Ledenhimer bread man, the produce people, the last of last nites drunks. Dinner this evening was at GWFinns. The room is beautiful, the food was fresh but something was missing. Like an excitement or something. The fish, and when you go there, get the fish whatever it is, probably the freshest in the city. The service was mediocre. Our little waiter seemed more interested in being cute than knowing anything about what was on the menu. My biggest dissappointment about this place was there were people in shorts and t-shirts dining. I felt like I was in a place at Disney World. I don't care where you are, it is dinner, at least put on some slacks and a collared shirt. Desserts were nothing. The bread they served was petit biscuits. They were served hot but I had wished for a choice. Apparently this is some sort of signature item for them. Be careful or you will down a bunch of these and spoil your dinner. For dessert we decided to go to the Ritz-Carlton. What a treat. We were shown to the lobby lounge and to the dessert station being manned by Ann. They had some special desserts for this station plus Bananas Foster. I managed to get some of the desserts they serve in Victor's. Killer stuff, a milk chocolate daquoiuse and the other one was eaten before I could get a bite. They serve their coffee with a french press. I like that touch. To me that signifies that it has not been sitting on a hot plate anywhere. And it was strong and full of flavor. What a treat, I will definitely do this again. The next day, before leaving town, we had lunch at a new place on Magazine street called Sugar Magnolias. It was pretty good. The fried green tomatos with blackened shrimp and remoulade sauce was fresh and excellent. The soft shell crab sandwich was very good, it was served on thick slices of homemade bread. I had expected to see french bread, it is nice to see some originality. A word of caution here, if you order a flavored tea, it will come in a bottle with no refills and they will charge you $4.00 for that bottle of tea. When the tea was ordered, there was no mention of this. So be careful, I guess a lot of restaurants are starting to do this and disagree with the practice, it seems a little deceptive to me. Another note, if you go, the Hotel Monaco is great. They gave me a goldfish to keep me company for my time there. They are pet friendly and will even give your poochie a turndown of dog biscuit with a bowl of evian water. Try to get a corner room. They are larger. Johnny at the front door, Winston at the concierge desk and Virginia at the front desk were all very nice, they went beyond my expectations to make my visit comfortable. And the neck rub in the lobby in the afternoon was very welcomed. I love New Orleans, there are so many new restaurants to eat at. I Stella! and Cuvee and Nirvana. I can't wait to go back. Le bon temps rollez! Get out of the quarter, in fact on my next trip, i intend to spend a day eating on the Northshore. I hear good things about it.